New Zealand Rabbit (Size, Color, Temperament, Behavior)

New Zealand rabbits are probably the most recognizable rabbits in the world.

The Easter Bunny is modeled on a New Zealand rabbit. Unfortunately, New Zealand rabbits are the world’s most common laboratory rabbits.

Thousands of rabbit enthusiasts keep New Zealand rabbits as pets.

Rabbit farming is not as common as it once was, but many of the rabbits raised for meat are New Zealand rabbits.

Reportedly (the writer would not know from personal experience) New Zealands are a particularly tasty rabbit.

In this article, we aren’t going to tell you how to raise New Zealand rabbits for meat or for laboratory test rigs.

We will tell you everything you need to know about raising New Zealand rabbits as pets and as show animals. We’ll start with the essential facts about the New Zealand breed.

Essential Facts About New Zealand Rabbits

Size: 9 to 12 pounds (4.1 to 5.6 kilograms) as adults. Females (does) are larger than males (bucks).

Colors: White, red, brown, blue, broken white with another color.

Appearance: Ears that stand up. Broad, muscular body.

Longevity: 5 to 8 years.

Personality: Gentle, friendly, trainable. Enjoys being petted.

Diet: Primarily timothy hay. Alfalfa hay is suitable for young rabbits, but can cause kidney stones in adults. Supplement hay with high-fiber pellets, carrots, leafy greens, and berries.

Health issues: Malocclusion of the teeth, warbles, gastrointestinal stasis, ear mites.

Bedding: Clean hay or shredded paper, changed weekly.

Housing: Needs a two-story hutch with 30 inches by 36 inches (75 cm by 90 cm) on each floor, 15 inches (38 cm) clearance on both levels. Sides can be wire mesh, wood, or plastic, as long as there is good ventilation inside. Base of the hutch should be raised off the ground or floor for your rabbit’s protection.

Makes a good pet for first-time rabbit owners, seniors, singles, and children.

History of the New Zealand Rabbit

The New Zealand Rabbit is an interesting breed with a rich history. Despite its name, it’s not actually from New Zealand. Instead, this rabbit breed was developed in the United States, specifically in California.

But the rabbits from which they were bred were imported from New Zealand.

Around 1910, rabbit breeders in California crossed the Belgian hare, Flemish Giant, and Golden Fawn breeds to create the early New Zealand rabbits. The American Rabbit Breeders Association accepted the breed in 1916.

The original New Zealand rabbits were red, but the breed had a mutation that made some New Zealand rabbits white.

California rabbit breeder William S. Preshaw perfected the white New Zealand rabbit in 1917.

The white variation became very popular, because its fur could be dyed any color the furrier wanted.

But rabbit breeders worked to produce New Zealand rabbits with a variety of fur colors”

  • The original reddish-brown New Zealand rabbit was confirmed by breeders in 1913.
  • The white New Zealand rabbit became available in 1920.
  • Black New Zealand rabbits have been available since 1958.
  • The New Zealand Broken Rabbit, which has white fur with a colored pattern over it, has been around since 2010.
  • The New Zealand Blue Rabbit, really more of a bluish-steel color, first appeared in 2016.

The white New Zealand rabbit with red eyes has become known as the Ruby-Eyed White.

There are also crossbred New Zealand rabbits with chestnut agouti fur (which has dark and light speckles) and with gold-tipped steel-colored fur.

In some competitions, each color of New Zealand rabbit is treated as a separate breed.

This makes it easier for rabbit breeders to take best of breed by entering a New Zealand with a relatively rare coat color, such as blue.

New Zealand rabbits have been popular for over a century because they are so hardy.

This makes them ideal subjects for cosmetics testing, although the practice of testing cosmetics for allergic reactions on rabbit ears in a lab is no longer common.

They are also great meat and show rabbits, but the largest number of New Zealand rabbits these days are kept as pets.

Appearance of the New Zealand Rabbit

Colors and Fur

New Zealand rabbits come in a variety of colors, including:

  • New Zealand White Rabbit: These rabbits are pure white with bright pink eyes. Their fur is short and very soft.
  • New Zealand Red Rabbit: The red variety has a reddish-brown coat, which is also short and soft.
  • Black and Blue: New Zealand rabbits can also be found in black and blue colors. Their coat has the same texture as the other varieties.

Albinism is the cause of the New Zealand White Rabbit’s white coat and pink eyes.

Size and Muscular Build

New Zealand rabbits are medium to large-sized, with an average size ranging from 9 to 12 pounds. These rabbits are known for their:

  • Extremely muscular build
  • Long and compact body
  • Strong legs, especially the hind legs

Head and Ears

The head and ears of a New Zealand rabbit are distinctive features that contribute to their appearance.

Some key characteristics of their head and ears include:

  • Proportionally large, broad, and round head
  • Round cheeks
  • Long and erect ears

Their facial features give them a well-rounded and muscular face.

Now that you’re familiar with the physical characteristics of New Zealand rabbits, you might have a better understanding and appreciation for these amazing animals.

Temperament and Behavior of the New Zealand Rabbit

New Zealand rabbits tend to be cooperative and affectionate with their owners—if they have been spayed or neutered.

Male New Zealand rabbits that have not been neutered are infamous for their tendency to urinate on the floor, on their toys, and on their cages to mark their territory.

They may do this even if they are the only rabbit you have.

Females that have not been spayed, of course, can start having baby bunnies when they are just four months old. They will compete with other females in the same hutch for food, space, and attention.

If you are raising New Zealand rabbits for show, you may have to follow a three-in-a-cage rule to qualify for certain competitions.

Make sure your rabbits have adequate space to stretch out inside their cages, and give them plenty of time outside their hutches to graze and play.

Taking Care of Your Pet New Zealand Rabbit

New rabbit owners sometimes don’t realize that rabbits eat grasses.

Because you don’t want your rabbit grazing on a lawn that may have been sprayed with chemicals, you must provide them with hay.

The best kind of hay for rabbits is a grass called timothy.

You can find both timothy hay and alfalfa cubes in feed and pet stores. Avoid giving your New Zealand rabbits alfalfa hay. It is too rich in both protein and calcium.

Most of your rabbit’s diet should be fresh hay or timothy hay pellets from manufacturers such as Exotic Nutrition, Mazuri, and Oxbow. Make sure the product is labeled as “timothy.”

Your rabbit needs a volume of hay roughly equivalent to its own body size every day.

The fiber in hay is essential to your rabbit’s digestive and dental health.

Of course, feeding rabbits carrots is fun. Just keep in mind that your rabbit will like the tops, too.

In general, it’s OK to offer an adult New Zealand rabbit up to 2 cups (150 grams) of dark leafy greens, carrots, and berries every day. Remove any uneaten food after a few hours.

Make sure your rabbit always has access to clean fresh water. And get used to the fact that rabbits eat their own poop.

Litter Box

Rabbits have a two-step digestion process.

Their bodies extract carbohydrates and some protein during food’s first pass through their digestive tracts.

They poop out soft pellets that contain oxygen-loving bacteria. These bacteria convert fiber into fat, which your rabbit extracts during a second pass of the food through its intestines.

Rabbits will poop anywhere and everywhere until they are trained.

All you have to do is to pick up the soft poops and put them in the litter box for about a week. Your rabbit will get the idea and quickly become housetrained.

General Rules for Happy Rabbits

If you feed your New Zealand rabbit hay and you give it a spacious hutch, it will likely be healthy for many years.

But there are some additional considerations for keeping a happy New Zealand rabbit.

  • Always face your rabbit when you want to pet it or pick it up. It needs to see you coming to feel safe with you.
  • Protect your rabbit from loud noises, especially barking and gunshots on TV.
  • Never give your rabbit a bath. They will be terrified. If necessary, wipe them clean with a warm, moist washcloth.
  • Don’t restrain your rabbit’s hind legs when you have to pick it up. Rabbits struggling to get free can injure their spines. Wrap their back legs loosely in a towel so you don’t get kicked.
  • Rabbits and other carnivorous pets do not make a good combination. Keep rabbits and carnivores separate.

Health Concerns of New Zealand Rabbits

It is easy to protect your New Zealand rabbit from some common health concerns.

  • Bot flies can lay their eggs in tiny wounds in the skin. The eggs hatch, and larvae destroy surrounding flesh. Protect your rabbits from flies.
  • Malocclusion, an inability to close the jaw, occurs when rabbits don’t get enough fiber in their diet. Check the teeth once a week to make sure they are not getting longer. See the vet if they are.
  • Gastric stasis, an accumu;ation of food at the pyloric valve at the bottom of the stomach, can occur when rabbits are not getting enough fiber. It causes water to run around the blockage, resulting in diarrhea. Rabbits can’t throw up to remove the blockage from the stomach. Veterinary care is necessary to save the rabbit’s life.
  • Rabbits pick up mites and parasites from other pets and wild rabbits. Make sure your rabbits only interact with healthy animals.

Popular Bunny Names for New Zealand Rabbits

Here’s a table with popular New Zealand Rabbit names, reflecting their breed characteristics.

The New Zealand Rabbit is known for its large size, round body, and gentle nature.

They come in various colors, including white, black, and red. Many of these names are inspired by their unique appearance and calm personality.

Boy Bunny Names for English Spot RabbitsGirl Bunny Names for English Spot Rabbits
Snowball (for white ones)Pearl (for white ones)
Thunder (for black ones)Ebony (for black ones)
Caramel (for red ones)Ruby (for red ones)

These names emphasize the large size, round body, and gentle nature of the New Zealand Rabbit breed, making them fitting choices for your rabbit.

Also read: Names for Pet Rabbits

Frequently Asked Questions About New Zealand Rabbits

Where can I buy a New Zealand rabbit?

New Zealand rabbits are not hard to find. Sometimes, you can find a suitable pet rabbit in a pet store.

If you want a show rabbit, however, you need to buy your bunny from a breeder.

Check out the New Zealand Rabbits Near Me page of Rabbit Breeders US for contact information.

How much will a New Zealand rabbit cost?

New Zealand rabbits may be available for as little as US $20, and seldom cost more than $100.

Can New Zealand rabbits live outside?

New Zealand rabbits are happy living outside in hutches, as long as they have a safe place to play and they are protected from predators and extremes of heat and cold.

How often do I need to groom my New Zealand rabbit?

Most of the year, combing your New Zealand rabbit once a week will keep shedding to a minimum.

You can inspect your rabbit’s paws, teeth, and ears at the same time. During the shedding season, about a week in the spring and fall, combing your rabbit every day may be necessary.

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